This is blog post is an excerpt from lpcamozzi.tumblr.org – chronicling my recent sabbatical in the USA and Canada to test out my developing retirement career – still a few years down the road.
The USA is a big brute of a country full of friendly, generous people – regardless of their political or religious persuasions. I can honestly say I did not meet one ugly American in my entire trip despite the widely differing cultures and personalities between individual states. All impressed me with their intelligence, work ethic and good nature. My many home visits via couchsurfing.org added to my understanding of them and their country.
Americans definitely work harder and play harder than we do. And die younger than Canadians for their troubles.
From a very early age, competitive and entrepreneurial training is instilled in young Americans. It is no accident that they win a lot. Because they have been trained that if you don’t win you can definitely lose badly in this unforgiving country. They value success and growth. And they share both.
Dental care is a bigger issue here in my view than medical. And both insuring agencies are often profoundly painful to the innocent user. As is their banking system. And governments.
Many Americans are currently frustrated with their state of the nation. On one hand, many are proud to see Obama swing the country to the left. While the entrepreneurs and corporations just keep hanging onto their money until he is gone. Lest it all go to the unions and bureaucracies. Or down the drain period. Like it will if we ever elect an NDP government in Canada.
And of course, they are both right. Until they find a middle ground.
There will be no job boom here in the short term but definitely a move to a more globally mature and sensitive society. Despite the fact, that according to a smart woman I met in Death Valley, a huge percentage of their population simply do not believe in evolution. Kind of a major religious right stumbling block towards a realistic view of today’s changing world. Meanwhile Washington State is rapidly becoming the most liberal jurisdiction on the continent with the legalization of pot and gay marriage.
Faith in God comes into play an awful lot here. Which isn’t necessarily all bad. Unless it disguises a fanatical worship of money or profit – on the sweating backs of your hard working employees. The ugly corporate opposite to a lot of very well run and progressive companies who value and reward their key employees. Mind you there does seem to be an elder cleansing going on in favour of new young blood.
Latin Americans will outnumber white Americans in California this year. Many of whom harvest an incredible variety of foods in California – the most amazing state – now dragging its way out of bankruptcy after the Terminator years.
Americans aren’t as obese as we are led to believe. But there are still some major league pork bellies out there – as there are in Canada. The western states in particular harbour lots of fitness oriented, progressive and environmentally friendly folks. Not unlike BC. With the same disdain for economic reality brought on by their real estate fortunes – inherited or otherwise.
Americans love dogs, but they don’t walk them. A treat for the family pooch is a car ride. Which everyone here does on a regular basis rather than walk. I honestly think a lot of Americans stay fit by working long hours on their feet.
They do not give directions well probably because many live in a very small sphere of influence and life – often for generations. And governments do not help with road signage, which is minimal. If you miss the one sign that tells you where to turn, you could be in for a long detour. Mind you, you always know after the fact that you have missed the turn by a reminder sign.
Media is huge in this country with more TV channels than you count. And Americans are a very refined media and marketing audience. They can separate the wheat from the chaff very quickly. Though it does appear among younger people that a TV is a low priority item in their homes. It’s all happening online for the younger generation – via legal or illegal downloads.
Western Americans hate the tar sands and associated pipelines yet they worship the car and fake enthusiasm for public transit. They would never ride it because it would not befit their social status. American households are environmentally progressive – ions ahead of Quebec ones. Keystone is the “line in the sand” for the US environmental movement – who for some odd reason tolerate water table destroying fracking over pipes.
As in Canada, young men are falling desperately behind a burgeoning and brilliant population of young women in the majority at the university level. Where a BA is a now definitively a minimum employment standard in this country. Meanwhile these lonely boys seek comfort in their drug habits and video games established early in life via an education system’s ADD definition and subsequent Ritalin treatment. God forbid that they go to war for their country and come back angry or shattered like the 1.3 American PTSD vets each day who take their own lives. Or seek their place in history like that severely messed up kid who murdered all those innocent children in Connecticut.
You know exactly where you stand with Americans – good, bad or indifferent. I like that. Simply because most don’t have the time or patience to drag out the niceties of a getting to know you. If they do, they let you know right away. And buy your book. I have witnessed, on many occasions, Americans awarding a good marketing presentation on any subject with a purchase – to support the person making their pitch. You just don’t see that in Canada – unless someone tells them it is a good idea. A lot more independent decision-making is done here -without worrying what people might or might not think. My kind of people.
Americans are gamblers – in life, business and leisure. Casinos are everywhere in this county. And so are human casualties amongst the many hard-earned victories. San Francisco and Sacramento are crawling with homeless who choose to live on the street despite quite good social benefits. And free cell phones.
Sales and selling are a fact of life in this country. Every shopping mall is a trade show floor with a polite but insistent hawker and any place is an opportunity to exchange business cards. Case in point, I was cashing a cheque at a bank and the teller noticed I was from Canada from my id. He asked what I was doing in the US. Next thing I know he is showing me his kid’s book and website for kids. While someone waited in line. We are now connected.
There are few grey areas in this country – unless you count government and their aging white Republican population. Or their humungous military – which most Americans know must be cut to get out of their financial mess. They also know it will never happen substantially.
Americans cook with gas and their kitchens are very well stocked with the latest food trends because as one of my hosts said ”We’ve never really known hunger in this country.” I know that I never went hungry on my stays with Americans. On the other hand I never abused my privilege. They would know.
There is a lot more disposable income here due to lower taxes across the board. And when Americans make it, they share it generously. Despite their proclaimed love of Canada, ‘nice Canadians’ and our safe society, I doubt most would last long under our tax regime.
I was blown away by the level of volunteerism at all ages in this country – apparently the highest volunteer participation level in the world – and all despite massive weekly workloads on all fronts. We are talking 60-hour workweeks here before they do their volunteer thing.
Random acts of kindness are the rule rather than the exception.
Education is expensive but extraordinarily diverse at the post secondary level. And struggling at the elementary levels – though not all that differently than Canada.
Americans are compassionate especially when it comes to family. It was evident in the tears I witnessed from parents and grandparents in several of my concerts who were listening to the words of my songs and remembering. And the heartfelt keepsakes scattered on gravesites and roadside casualty cairns.
Could I live here? That is the sixty-four dollar question. I will never know unless I try – but it is a high-risk, high-return proposition.
So for now, all I can say to the people of the USA is ‘Thanks so much for your kindness, humor and hospitality! I really had a blast.
You may well be the GREATEST country in the world in my view. But are you the BEST country at taking care of your own people?
Only time will tell but for now I am sure happy that Americans are my neighbours. We Canadians could learn a lot from them if we actually wanted to get serious about building our country for the long term – instead of just lazily harvesting resources and selling them cheap.
(Excerpt from lpcamozzi.tumblr.org)